First, let’s think about how Jaina plans to destroy you so that we can effectively build counters to this deck. In essence the goals of the Freeze Mage are:
- Draw Cards
- Freeze and sweep the board in the mid game.
- Lay down at least one Ice Barrier and one Ice Block
- Play Alexstrasza
- Pyro, Fireball, Ice Lance you to death
Some other interesting characteristics of the deck:
- We could care less about dealing damage to your face before Alexstrasza is played. In fact, any damage to the face before she sets your health down to 15 is pretty much wasted. The exception to this is armor. If you do have armor, we will try and chip that down as much as possible.
- We don’t care about your taunts. As we’re not going for your face before turn 9, go ahead and taunt all you want. We are just going to freeze you and clear you. We also only have 2 taunt cards in our deck, both are 0/2.
- We don’t care about your ability to buff minions and many of your spells. We have no silence in the deck.
- We ignore weapons. Besides freezing your Hero, we have no weapon removal.
- We absolutely need to have Ice Block in place before we play Alexstrasza.
Let’s take each one of these goals and see how we can build an effective counter.
The Freeze Mage has an incredible amount of card draw. There are 9 cards in the deck that draw cards. Arcane Intellect x2, Bloodmage Thalnos, Novice Engineer (or Loot Hoarder) x2, Acolyte of Pain x2, Azure Drake x2. Generally when playing this deck I have seen 20 of my cards by turn 9. Important to note, then, that 33% of the time I may not even have Alextrasza in my hand by turn 9. The more you can do to increase that percentage, the better off you will be. Consider carrying silence in your deck to silence Acolyte of Pain and Bloodmage Thalnos. The other cards have draw on the Battlecry, so there is not much you can do about that. But you absolutely should not let Acolyte get its full value.
Another counter play is to consider milling the Mage with Mukla and Coldlight. However, these are dangerous strategies. But the deck has so much draw that I have accidentally milled myself.
Freezing and Sweeping
The Frost Mage has an incredible amount of board clear. Think about this: Doomsayer on Turn 2, Frost Nova + Doomsayer on Turn 5, Blizzard on Turn 6, Flamestrike on Turn 7. Fireball if needed after turn 4. Your minions, no matter how taunted and beefy, are not going to last long. In order to counter this, there are a few things you should consider in your deck: Charge, Windfury, Weapons and Divine Shield. Your attacks need to be fast. Getting a minion to stick is very difficult in this match, but you need to plan deliver 38 to 46 points of damage (due to Ice Barrier x2) before turn 9. A Divine Shield can help you get a swing in after the freeze and clear. Minions with more than 2 health may survive Blizzard. This may be the sole use for a Silvermoon Guardian anywhere in Hearthstone due to the three health, but Argent Commander should also be in your deck.
Leeroy actually has a place in countering Freeze Mage as you can get 6 damage in, and we don’t really care about your whelps as doing damage to your face doesn’t matter to us in the early and mid-game. Since your minions are going to get swept anyway, 1 heath chargers are actually good here. Normally, you hate to have 1 health minions against Jaina, but you are only going to have one swing with each minion anyway. Wolfrider and Reckless Rocketeer to the rescue! Also, if Jaina has to use 2 mana to clear a 1 hp minion, that is a good thing.
Because of this type of gameplay, Battlecry effects and Deathrattle effects can be used to your advantage, but any mechanics that require a minion to be on the board first or stay on the board are near useless. Keep this in mind when choosing your minion army as most situational cards are not going to be very helpful.
Lay Down Ice Barrier and Ice Block.
You have to apply early game pressure to attempt to keep these secrets out of play. Mage needs at least 6 mana to put up Ice Barrier and Ice Block so do all you can to force her to use all her mana getting rid of your minions before turn 9. Before turn 9, Mage has only had the opportunity to use 36 mana. 6 of that needs to be used to place the secrets, so do all you can to disrupt the other 30 she has. If the Doomsayers are gone a few minions with high HP can help as Blizzard and Flamestrike only deal 2 and 4 damage respectively. Oasis Snapjaw anyone?
Minions with Windfury can force her to deal with you as well. Doomhammer and Al-Akir are some examples. Unfortunately most Windfury minions are not going to last long enough to do anything.
More importantly, you need to chew through these two secrets before Alexstrasza is played. It’s very hard to play Alex if the Ice Block is already popped.
Remember that this deck has very few taunts. You need a way to chew through 4 Mirror Images and do damage at the same time. Swipe and similar AoE cards are helpful here. (EDIT: Also Flare is helpful for the Hunters.)
Play Alexstrasza then Burn You to Death.
Obviously, if Alexstrasza is out and the Ice Block is up you are in bad position. You have one turn to kill her and pop the shield to have any chance of surviving. Jaina really doesn’t care about your taunts now, everything she has just goes right by them. A Big Game Hunter and some sort of weapon, charge, or hero power may allow you to live long enough to kill her on the next turn. Having some armor at this point can be helpful as well, but most importantly you have to kill Alex and pop the secret. Also, since you can expect Alexstrasza on turn 9 or later, getting a minion to stick at this point may be possible as she can’t easily play Alex and kill you in the same turn.
TL:DR: the way to counter Freeze Mage is to concentrate on early fast pressure, have good weapons and armor, and be able to deal damage from minions on the turn they are played. Obviously Warrior is a straight counter. Druid with armor and charge minions and perhaps Rogue with Deadly Poison are also heroes to explore.
EDIT: Link to the exact Freeze Mage deck I am referring to in this article, by Otter Pop: http://www.hearthpwn.com/decks/58909-otter-pops